15 When there are no wordsWhen There Are No Words – Revolutionary Works for Oboe and Piano
Alex Klein; Phillip Bush
Cedille CDR 90000 208 (cedillerecords.org)

Released in March 2022, When There Are No Words: Revolutionary Works for Oboe and Piano features the talents of world-renowned oboe virtuoso, Alex Klein, and pianist Phillip Bush. The album consists of six works paired into three sections reflecting the circumstances in which they were composed: reality of war, anti-war activism and exile. 

The first section contains pieces written during World War II: the popular Sonata for Oboe and Piano by Paul Hindemith paired with the Pavel Haas Suite for Oboe and Piano which was written at the very beginning of the Nazi occupation. Haas was later sent to Auschwitz and did not survive.

The second section contains works with anti-war sentiments: Benjamin Britten’s frequently played Temporal Variations which was written for a play about coal miners and their strikes in 1936; and William Bolcom’s Aubade – for the Continuation of Life, written during the Cold War. 

The third and final section features Three Etudes for Oboe with Piano Accompaniment by Brazilian composer José Siqueira and Suite for Oboe and Piano by Czech composer Klement Slavický, which were both written to protest their political exile.

Klein’s thoughtful linking of these compositions sheds light on some lesser known but beautifully written works for oboe and piano. These works explore dissonant intervals, lyrical lines and a variety of tonal colours, allowing the listener to become immersed in the emotional expression of the composer’s experiences. Klein is a complete master of the oboe, playing with his beautifully rounded, pure, yet complex tone which is mixed with the brilliant, warm and clear playing of Bush. The balance and tonal colours created between them are exquisite.

01 I Musici de MontrealRichard Strauss – Metamorphosen; Arvo Pärt – Symphony No.4 “Los Angeles”
I Musici de Montréal; Jean-Marie Zeitouni
ATMA ACD2 2813 (atmaclassique.com/en)

What constitutes interpretation? Certainly every artist or orchestral ensemble worth its name seeks to internalize the message of the music they choose to perform in the hopes of sharing a unique perspective with the audience. In the very best cases, that perspective is highly individual, shaped by training, culture, intelligence, imagination, curiosity and countless other factors. The best music invites a variety of approaches and our source of continuing fascination with the Western canon is the constant artistic revivification of its musical literature.

I Musici de Montréal’s revisiting of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen and Arvo Pärt’s Symphonie No.4 “Los Angeles” is a breathtaking reminder that personal interpretation can lie just off the beaten track – s0 as to make your experience of it utterly breathtaking.  

The sense of foreboding in Metamorphosen is not simply complete and ink-black but inhabits the gloom of post-war Germany with enormous tonal power, conjuring the visual skyline of shattered cathedrals and priceless bombed Gothic structures, open to the sky, roads filled with the debris of war, with desultory, homeless survivors scavenging for a living. It is a show-stopping performance.  

The poetic sentiments of Pärt’s Symphonie No.4 are no less weighty in tone textures, albeit far less grim. The three-movement work is based on the prayer to the Guardian Angel, taken from the Slavonic Orthodox Canon. Jean-Marie Zeitouni leads the ensemble in a monumental, sacred essence of the work in haunting, spectral and evocative terms.

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02 Piazzolla BessettePort of Call: Buenos Aires Astor Piazzolla
Chloé Dominguez; Louise Bessette; Marc Djokic
Analekta AN 2 9298 (analekta.com/en)

Canadian pianist Louise Bessette’s second recording from her series A Piano Around the World travels to Buenos Aires, Argentina with works by the world-renowned composer/bandoneonist/tango master Astor Piazzolla. Here Bessette is joined by Canadians violinist Marc Djokic and cellist Chloé Dominguez.  

The opening work, Oblivion, is an arrangement for piano, violin and cello by José Bragato, former Buenos Aires Philharmonic member and cellist in several Piazzolla ensembles cellist. This is a tight meditative almost classical rendition with the piano groove supporting the famous alternating violin and cello melodies. Bragato also arranged the four-tango movement Las cuatro estaciones porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) which Piazzolla composed independently between 1965 and 1970, about the city’s weather seasons. Tight performances in fast and happy Primavera Porteña. A more orchestral arrangement in Verano Porteña with cello and violin solos amidst classic Piazzolla grooves, accents, tango lines and piano flourishes. 

Le grand tango (1982), written for Mstislav Rostropovich, is a one-movement original virtuosic work featuring Dominguez’s well-thought-out clear legato cello phrases above Bessette’s rhythmic piano accompaniment. Dmitriy Varelas’ violin and piano arrangement of Piazzolla’s four-movement Histoire du Tango (1985), is a decades-spanning musical tango history from the classic early high-spirited tango Bordel 1900 with Djokic’s memorable high-pitched violin lines and percussive taps, to the current Concert d’aujourd’hui, with its more atonal violin/piano lines. From the melancholy opening to tempo and mood changes, Bessette’s solo piano interpretation of Adiós Nonino is perfect Piazzolla. 

A standing ovation for these respectful Piazzolla tango performances!

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03 TransfigurationTransfiguration
Stéphane Tétrault; Valérie Milot
ATMA ACD2 2865 (atmaclassique.com/en)

A “classical” CD opening with jazz and ending with rock? Credit Quebeckers Stéphane Tétreault (cello) and Valérie Milot (harp) for assembling these wildly disparate “transfigurations” by five Canadian composers.

La Folía, a Renaissance-era Portuguese dance tune, has inspired variations by hundreds of composers from Vivaldi to Rachmaninoff (including my fellow WholeNote reviewer Daniel Foley!). In Alexandre Grogg’s buoyant Three Variations on La Folia, drummer Bernard Riche joins Tétreault and Milot for this semi-improvised, bossa-nova-flavoured jazz arrangement. Tétreault’s cello floats melancholically amid Milot’s rippling in Grogg’s Swan to Swan, quoting “swan music” by Gibbons, Sibelius and Barber, leading to the iconic The Swan by Saint-Saëns.

Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Si veriash a la rana (a Ladino nursery rhyme), arranged from her Concerto for cello and harp, moves from solemn Hebraic prayer to wailing flamenco frenzy. Puccini’s Madama Butterfly infuses Transfigured Sentiment in Marjan Mozetich’s audience-pleasing style of repeated phrases expressing endless yearning.

Caroline Lizotte’s Close for Couloir, Op.48, commissioned by Couloir, the cello-harp duo from B.C. now based in Europe, evokes a Scottish stone circle, bloody battlefield, Edinburgh Castle, Melrose Abbey and a song by Robert Burns. The music is mysterious, martial, meditative, sentimental – and entrancing!

François Vallières’ busy, fragmented Double-Monologue depicts two individuals incessantly speaking without hearing each other, self-absorption that’s symptomatic, says Vallières, “of contemporary society’s addiction to social media.” Riche rejoins the duo in Vallières’ arrangement of rock-group Gentle Giant’s Cogs in Cogs, ending this fascinating CD in raucous fashion.

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04 Emilie Girard CharestÉmile Girard-Charest – Intimités
Émile Girard-Charest; various artists
Ambiances Magnétique AM 263 CD (actuellecd.com)

Émilie Girard-Charest is a multi-talented Montreal cellist, improviser and composer. Here, four compositions written between 2014 and 2018 for varying strings, piano and percussion ensembles touch upon her self-described clear personal inspirations in unique, though at times challenging, music all her own. 

 Girard-Charest plays cello on the first three compositions too. Along with violinists Lyne Allard, Geneviève Liboiron and violist Jean René, Asyndètes (2017) is her exploration of the effects of “fracture energy and shocks” as intense outpouring of ragged sounds from fast strings to accents, multi-rhythms and wide pitch settings are spaced out by silences to quieter calm held notes. Épanchements (2014), for violin (Liboiron), cello and piano (Daniel Añez), is based on silences which separate a fascinating use of noisy modern strings sounds and single-note piano, making for focused listening. Heurts (2019) explores the notion of rupture point. Violin, cello, piano and percussion (Noam Bierstone) are dramatic in faster rhythmical driving music with clever midstream percussion hits and slight short instrumental heartbeat-like effects. 

The title track Intimités, for chamber ensemble comprised of four cellos and four double basses, is more atonal with almost painful dissonances as the composer explores aspects of intimacy. Powerful original musical ideas are gradually developed, effectively utilizing held notes throughout – like each ensemble member holding an extended personal note with pitch/tremolo subtlety – and closer to the end, very low-pitch, thunder-like grumbles. 

Contemporary music aficionados, and all other listeners too, are encouraged to experience this great Girard-Charest release.

05 An LaurenceAlmost Touching
An Laurence
people | places | records PPR 033 (peopleplacesrecords.bandcamp.com)

Tiohtià:ke/Montreal-based An Laurence 安媛 is a nuanced experimental guitarist, vocalist and multimedia artist. Not only a solo act, she cofounded the Paramorph Collective with composer Kim Farris-Manning, and with flutist Sara Constant, the duo alokori. Laurence’s approach to performance favours pushing the boundaries of received genres such as contemporary classical, electronic music, spoken word and song. Her 15-track Almost Touching features works by five international composers, combining all those influences, sometimes juxtaposed in abrupt ways. 

Emblematic of the record is Elischa Kaminer’s 11-part expansive, moody and challenging Chants d’amour. Nearly 62-minutes long, it could easily have been a separate album. The work of Kaminer, a composer and theatre-maker based in England and Germany, is “located on the intersections of music theatre, sound art, electronic, concert, queer-pop and Yiddish musics.” His recent work often takes on the form of “electro-acoustic landscapes … molded [onto] performers’ own artistry, humour, physicality and musicality.” 

The dizzying, disparate variety of vocal, instrumental, stylistic, electronic and affective devices in Chants d’amour certainly reflects his approach. Another distinct challenge to an Anglo like me is Laurence’s extensive intimate poetic recitations in French sprinkled throughout the work. In my mind’s eye it adds up to a theatrical whole which might perhaps find its ultimate expression on stage or screen.

The sum of the many parts of this major work – as well as of the album as a whole – while often a demanding listen, is never less than engaging. I’ve a feeling we’ll hear much more from An Laurence.

06 T AK Love Crystal Stone Ashkan Behzadi - Love, Crystal and Stone
TAK Ensemble
TAK Editions (takensemble.bandcamp.com/album/love-crystal-and-stone-2)

The TAK Ensemble and composer Ashkan Behzadi release a song cycle of staggering imagination and originality. Behzadi’s ground-breaking approach to vocal and ensemble writing stretches sonic expression to its outer limits. At times this music is highly kinetic and agitated, unfolding with a seemingly inexhaustible series of magical events. Alternatively there are moments of tender lyricism that invite the listener into mysterious and dusty landscapes that also shimmer with a distant haziness. 

Throughout the seven settings of poetry by Lorca, Behzadi offers a deeply philosophical interpretation that resonates into psychological territory that is at once unsettling and beautiful. The originality of vocal writing and colouristic support in the ensemble is of an innovative quality that pushes musical expression into daring new terrain. Vocalist Charlotte Mundy delivers a performance of breathtaking musicality, placing her among the foremost interpreters of contemporary music. The TAK ensemble approaches the difficult and unrelenting score with brilliant ease and impressive virtuosity. Bravo to all on a stunning recording.

07 Frank Horvath InnertationInnertation
Frank Horvat
I Am Who I Am Records (frankhorvat.com)

Canadian composer Frank Horvat’s Innertation allows the listener to simultaneously listen to his music and deal with one’s own personal issues and mindsets in this self-described “continuous 60-minute electronic ambient composition.” Horvat writes that he created this work as an extension to his meditation practice, to allow one to rest and heal while listening to it. It is equally inspirational listening without a meditational or exercise component.

The predominant reflective recurring musical idea heard throughout is comprised of short, single-note melodies with ascending and/or descending intervals, and repeated note segments, reminiscent of the minimalistic genre. Horvat, along with Jean Martin mixing and mastering, successfully develops these ideas for meditation with numerous effects. The calm opening with a tonal, single, wide-spaced-note melody sets the mood, with a gradual inclusion of electronic wash backdrops, sounds which resurface throughout. Drama is achieved with volume changes, varied electronic timbres and tonal jumps with subtle quasi-key modulations. The unexpected, brief, louder accented-notes passage at around the 15-minute mark is especially arousing. High, single, electronic tonal/atonal pitches support facing emotional tension. Interspersed throughout are calming short silence spaces between the earworm melodies and softer volumes. The last ten minutes are a calming, peaceful shift, leading to the closing two-pitch and repeated notes with soft wash ending.

Innertation is a timeless memorable intelligent electronic composition perfectly produced. Horvat’s contemplative sounds encourage repeated listening while meditating, and otherwise too.

08 MC MaguireMC Maguire – Transmutation of Things
Lizzie Lyon; Orchestra and CPU; MC Maguire
Neuma 159 (neumarecords.org)

You will probably be overwhelmed the first time you listen to this release of two sonic canvasses by techno-pop-wizard MC Maguire. He layers sounds on sounds, so densely that at first it seems there will never be any relief, nor rest for the ears, the panicky sense a loud environment can cause, when one feels crushed by sound. It’s easier the second time; it requires surrender, faith in the strength of mind needed to survive one’s daily trials and chores. If your energy levels are down, maybe wait till they rally before you hit play.

Play is what Maguire does. He plays with source material he openly steals, in this case two pop songs. He plays with time, as any proper composer should, and he bounces balls of colour off walls of solid masonry. There are rhythmic and tonal games, and one or two listenings won’t suffice to catch them all. Reading his deadpan liner notes, you might wonder if there are word games too. Doubtful. His creative processes are apt, though mystifying; I feel like maybe  I can hear what he says he did. You don’t need to know how it works for it to work, any more than a car you drive or a plane you fly in, or the microwave you use to heat your coffee. 

The two tracks are Predisposition, which removes an Ariana Grande song from its original frame and takes it for a ride round the galaxy; and Apophis, named for the (potentially) Earth-shattering asteroid on course to bring about a reckoning on Friday, April 13, 2029. Katy Perry’s lyrics pop in after the cataclysmic orgasmic moment of truth. Both are amazing and beautiful.

09 Gayle YoungGayle Young – As Trees Grow
Xenia Pestova Bennett; Ed Bennett
farpoint recordings fp084 (xeniapestovabennett.com)

Composer Gayle Young has in the course of her career been a musician, builder of microtonal musical instruments and sound sculptor. She’s also made a significant contribution as an author and music journalist. For several decades she served as editor and publisher of Canada’s leading magazine “for curious ears” Musicworks and in 1989 her definitive biography of Canadian inventor Hugh Le Caine, The Sackbut Blues: Hugh Le Caine, Pioneer in Electronic Music, was published by the National Museum Of Science And Technology. 

Young’s fifth album, As Trees Grow, showcases three piano-centred compositions. The three-part Ice Creek, six-part Forest Ephemerals: Four Flowers and the 20-minute title work all reflect seasonal aspects of her Niagara-region home as well as her dedication to Deep Listening. Underscoring direct links to nature, field recordings of natural sounds infuse several sections of the works, privileging the voice of nature alongside that of the grand piano.

Pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett, a specialist in contemporary concert music, renders the scores with sensitivity of imagination, listening and touch. She collaborated extensively with the composer in preparation for As Trees Grow, exploring the piano’s eight octave range. Another collaborator, Ed Bennett, subtly enhances the instrument’s resonance with live-electronic treatments in sections.

In Ice Creek the recorded sounds of flowing water played through a series of tuned resonators are mixed with the piano’s sonics. This process not only selectively sustains the keyboard’s acoustic resonance, but also draws the listener’s awareness to the natural soundscape and to our often problematic engagement with it.

Evoking Ontario spring wildflowers, Young’s Forest Ephemerals: Four Flowers builds on the chromatic harmonic language of the previous century, her aphoristic and rhythmically organic phrases blending with it to express a very singular musical voice, one which reaches for hope.

10 Half a DovePauline Oliveros – Half a Dove in New York
Pauline Oliveros; Reynols

Composer Pauline Oliveros wrote frequently about what it means to listen throughout her career, which spanned over half a century and encompassed electronic works, compositions for magnetic tape, improvisation and exercises in focus and reflection designed to deepen everyday engagement with sound. As a composer and accordionist, she significantly contributed to the development of electronic music, and the culmination of her life-long fascination with music and sound is what inspired the practice of Deep Listening, the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions.

As the artist herself put it: “…If you are too narrow in your awareness of sounds, you are likely to be disconnected from your environment… Listening is a lifetime practice that depends on accumulated experiences with sound; it can be focused to detail or open to the entire field of sound.”

Though Oliveros died in 2016, her music and her mentorship have inspired thousands of artists around the globe, and her Deep Listening Meditations practice continues to be shared among sound artists, healers and non-musicians alike. Oliveros was a leader in “listening outside the box” and has one of the most committed followings one can find in music. Recordings continue to surface of workshops and performances, and interest in her written work, as well as her performance practices, continues to grow. There is hardly an improvising musician anywhere who has not been in some way touched by Pauline Oliveros.

As with most experiential music, the end results occasionally fall in the “you had to be there” category, and it is not unusual to find recordings that were inspiring to play but had a lesser focus on the product. Such is the case with The NetCast Improvisation with the group Reynols (Miguel Tomasin, drums; guitarist Roberto Conlazo, guitarist Anla Courtis) plus Monique Buzzarté, trombone and Kevin McCoy, computer processing. Comprising two 20-minute-plus tracks recorded in 1999, they stand as one of Oliveros’ earliest collaborations via the Internet. Not an easy listen, but a relevant part of the Oliveros archive, and a reminder to check in with the Deep Listening practice during these troubled times.

11 Reynolds Violin worksRoger Reynolds – Violin Works
Gabriela Díaz; Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose
BMOP Sound 1086 (bmop.org)

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and soloist Gabriela Díaz release a disc representing Roger Reynolds’ violin works written over a 15-year period. Throughout Personae, for violin and orchestra, four characters are personified as indicated by the four movements’ respective titles: The Conjurer, The Dancer, The Meditator and The Advocate. In this music, Reynolds makes sparse and delicate use of the orchestra, brilliantly supporting the varying expressions of character in the violin part. Intriguing echo motifs and electronic pulsations evoke atmospheres of striking originality. In the composer’s own words, “the violin has a multifaceted voice” – a sonic attribute that is certainly achieved in this work. 

Kokoro, a work for solo violin in 12 short movements, is a substantial contribution to the repertoire. Like Personae, it was written in consultation with dedicatee Irvine Arditti. This Zen-inspired work demands not only a world-class technical prowess, but also requires that the performer enter several challenging psychological dispositions in order to convey the poetic intention of the music. In her performance, BMOP violinist Díaz projects newfound dimensions of expression and colour. Each movement is delivered with a breathtaking and deeply personal musicality.  

Last on the recording is Aspirations, a six-movement work for violin and orchestra that is a deep gesture representing the composer’s longtime collaborative relationship with Díaz. It is decidedly thicker in scoring as compared to its companion heard earlier on the disc. Where Personae makes use of character manifestation, Aspirations utilizes a myriad of textures and colours as the primary mode of expression. Perhaps the most challenging of all the works on the recording, Díaz’s extraordinary virtuosity is unforgettable throughout this work. Gil Rose produces a highly impressive amount of precision and definition from the BMOP ensemble and is quite at home in Reynolds’ soundworlds.

12 5 Minutes For Earth CoverFIVE MINUTES for Earth
Yolanda Kondonassis
Azica (yolandaharp.com/earth-at-heart)

With its tremendous range, dynamic possibility and immediately identifiable sonic thumbprint, the solo harp has the potential to be among the most expressive and emotive instruments in music. This is most certainly the case when this ancient instrument finds itself in the capable and eminently musical hands of multiple-Grammy Award-nominee Yolanda Kondonassis. Recording here for the Azica Records label, FIVE MINUTES for Earth is an ambitious project that combines Kondonassis’ considerable and obvious musical talent with her love for planet Earth. 

Like so many, Kondonassis acknowledges that the pandemic and lockdown provided space and time to think deeply about what one finds most meaningful in life. And it was in this thoughtful place that inspiration for this project first hit. “It seemed like a perfect way to combine a number of missions – most importantly, the opportunity to draw attention to Earth conservation and climate change through the language of music.” Tapping 16 celebrated composers representing a wide range of ages, backgrounds and intersectionality yet united in their connection to environmentalism, this fine new recording was captured in the resonant and acoustically beautiful Sauder Concert Hall. FIVE MINUTES should go a long way to further solidify Kondonassis’ reputation of being among the world’s preeminent solo harpists, while giving listeners opportunity to experience a musical “metaphor for the urgent and compressed timeframe that remains for our global community to embrace and implement solutions to our fast-growing environmental crisis.”

13 Across TimeAcross Time – Guitar solos & songs by Frederic Hand
Frederic Hand; Lesley Hand
ReEntrant REN02 (newfocusrecordings.com)

After dazzling us with his earlier release Baroque and on the Street (Sony), and his work with his fusion band Jazzantiqua, Frederic Hand returns with Across Time and a series of original works that have been written in various styles, sweeping across continents, from Elizabethan England to 20th-century Argentina and Brazil, to utterly contemporary music. 

This repertoire is remarkable for its range as well as for the refinement of form and performance. Hand reveals that he has, over time, developed a deep relationship with his instrument, the guitar, and he morphs into a myriad of styles while exploring various eras in the musical continuum. 

Across Time shows that Hand now has a voice all his own. He has developed an intimate relationship with melodic line. He also has the ability to create remarkable harmonic tensions with relatively spare ornamentation. And his rhythmic impulses have their own allure, the retardandos and accelerandos sounding entirely natural.

All of this is reflected in all of the album’s music – especially The Poet’s Eye, with stunning vocals by (his wife) Lesley Hand, and on the apogee of the album, which is Trilogy. Drawing on plenty of variety in both dynamics and articulation, Hand foregrounds the tensions of his works with vivid contrasts and also with subtle and sensitive handling of the instrument that he has come to make an extension of his very body – living and breathing the music that comes from within.

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14 Christopher TrapaniChristopher Trapani – Horizontal Drift
Amy Advocat; Marco Fusi; Maximilian Haft; Daniel Lippel; Marilyn Nonken
New Focus Recordings FCR296 (newfocusrecordings.com)

Other than his name and email, the only thing on multiple-award-winning American/Italian composer Christopher Trapani’s business card is, “Mandolins and Microtones.” Both interests are reflected in the outstanding album, Horizontal Drift, featuring six of his compositions.

Trapani’s bespoke compositional approach taps the soundworlds of American, European, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin, blending them into his own musical palette. Certainly ambitious in its cultural diversity, Turkish maqam and South Asian raga rub shoulders with Delta blues, Appalachian folk and 20th-century-influenced electronically mediated spectral effects and canons. Horizontal Drift also reflects Trapani’s preoccupation with melody couched in microtonality and just intonation. Timbral diversity derived from the use of unusual instruments, retuning and preparation are other compositional leitmotifs. 

Album opener Târgul (the name of a Romanian river) is scored for the Romanian horn-violin plus electronics. With a metal resonator and amplifying horn, it has a tinny, thin sound reminiscent of a 1900s cylinder violin recording. Trapani’s intriguing composition maps a modern musical vocabulary onto the instrument’s keening voice, his work interrogating its roots in the folk music of the Bihor region of Romania.

The track Tesserae features the viola d’amore, a Baroque-era six- or seven-stringed bowed instrument sporting sympathetic strings. After exploring multi-tonally inflected modal melodies with gliding ornaments, well into the piece Trapani engineers the musical analogy of a coup de théâtre. In Marco Fusi’s skillful and sensitive hands the viola d’amore unexpectedly morphs into a very convincing Hindustani sarangi. This magical moment of musical metamorphosis was so satisfying I had to play it several times.

15 Marti EpsteinMarti Epstein – Nebraska Impromptu, Chamber Music for Clarinet
Rane Moore; Winsor Music
New Focus Recordings FCR324 (newfocusrecordings.com)

Music that follows in the tradition of Morton Feldman is perhaps best suited to live performance, an experience to share among an audience; but alone by the stereo, in a room with the windows open for spring air is good too. The release this month of the music of Marti Epstein features fine performances by all participants, notably clarinetist Rane Moore, whose rich and brilliant sound is heard on each track. 

The works display the influence of Feldman and also Toru Takemitsu. They should be enjoyed in a spirit of contemplation and peace. These are calm explorations, invitations to dream, and journeys without goals. Three of the five pieces reference or respond to visual inspiration. Oil and Sugar, for clarinet, flute, violin and piano (2018), references a conceptual video of motor oil being poured over a mass of sugar cubes. Komorebi for clarinet, oboe and violin (2018), is the Japanese word for sunlight filtered through leaves. Nebraska Impromptu, for clarinet and piano (2013), was inspired by the landscape of Epstein’s childhood. A visual artist herself, she stretches her musical colours across great expanses of “canvas.” 

The debt to Takemitsu is especially apparent in Komorebi, but Epstein is an original artist within this aesthetic realm, and for those who enjoy contemplative naturalist art, the performances are delightfully in tune and in synch. She allows remarkably long silences to divide and set off the swatches of sound, like negative space in a painting, allowing the listener to savour the previous moment before hearing the next.

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